Drawing Ghosts
Alice, Version 1
Mixed Media
9" x 12"
Private Collection

Born in 1834, Alice Belin Flagg was the younger sister of the owner of the Hermitage, an enormously successful rice plantation located near Charleston, South Carolina. According to local legend, beautiful fifteen year old Alice fell in love with a poor laborer. Her brother -- a well-known physician, and the head of one of the island's most prosperous families -- immediately refused to grant his consent to the pair. He forbade Alice from ever again seeing her suitor; the young woman was headstrong, however, and they continued to meet in secret.

Alice and her lover decided to marry as soon Alice came of age, and he presented her with a simple gold ring. Alice knew she couldn't wear the ring within sight of her protective brother, so she tied it to a blue silk cord which she wore around her neck. The little ring was concealed by her clothing, and lay against her heart.

Alice's brother eventually sent her to school in Charleston. Separated from her fiance, Alice became seriously and suddenly ill. Her brother was sent for, and he arrived in Charleston to find Alice clinging to life. Despite the dangers, and confident in his own medical training, he decided to bring her home to the Hermitage, where he could provide his sister's treatment himself.

The journey home was difficult, and Alice's condition rapidly deteriorated. By the time they returned to the plantation, Alice clung to life, wavering in and out of consciousness. While in her delirious state, she spoke frequently of her young lover and her planned wedding, but her brother believed that her words were only delusions. One evening while suffering from fever, however, Alice threw off her nightclothes, exposing the ring around her neck. Her brother -- suddenly realizing that the engagement was real -- became enraged. He ripped the blue cord from her neck, and threw the ring out of the window, deep into the marshes of the island.

In her last moments, Alice awoke and reached for the cord around her neck. Finding nothing, she became hysterical, and asked for her ring; her pleas were ignored. Alice died shortly thereafter, still demanding her ring. According to legend, her brother, furious about her defiance and the shame she had brought to the family, buried her in a simple grave at All Saints Church in Pawley's Island, with a headstone bearing only her first name: "Alice."

But Alice wasn't gone for long. Soon after her death, she began appearing to Hermitage visitors, dressed in her white burial gown. Today, people continue to report seeing Alice peering through the Hermitage's windows, or wandering through the salt marshes, looking for her ring. Those who see her claim that she walks with her hand on her chest, searching the ground at her feet. Many also claim to have seen Alice at the All Saints Cemetery, where it is believed that she can be summoned by circling her grave backwards 13 times. Indeed, visitors to the cemetery can see that a path has been well-worn around her tombstone. Another legend holds that if you place a ring on Alice's grave, it will fly off, as Alice rejects it -- still looking for the ring she lost.

(I should mention that, in reality, it's unlikely that the "real" Alice Flagg is buried in the All Saints Graveyard. Local historians have pointed out that another Alice Flagg occupies that spot. That Alice is a child who drowned in an 1893 hurricane, along with the rest of her family. Although her own grave bears only her first name, the surrounding tombstones list those family members who died with her. The other Alice Flagg -- who supposedly looks for her ring -- is actually buried miles away. Still, this inconsistency has done little to curb the legend, and Alice's grave continues to be one of the most visited burial sites in the South -- a place where people never let facts get in the way of a really good story.)
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